South-East Turkey: Diyarbakir | Hasankeyf | Mardin | Urfa

As we departed from Hasankeyf I felt sad to leave this beautiful town behind.  I would have enjoyed staying there a few more days, but with limited days it was time to travel onwards to Mardin. Mardin was the closest town to the border we visited, and like Hasankeyf it’s alongside the Tigris River. The town is divided into two distinct parts, the old and new town. The old town is famous for its architecture, and is placed on the top of a very large hill that strategically overlooks the surrounding areas. The history of Mardin is extremely old, with remains being discovered from over 6000 years ago.

Upon arriving once again by a series of mini buses, we were dropped off at what seemed to be in-between the old and new town. After asking around and scanning some maps we settled on tacking a taxi to our hostel. The ride was not too far, but given the large hill we had to climb, and carrying our luggage, the cheap taxi was worth it.  Awaiting us was the Şahmeran Otanik Pansiyon hotel/hostel. For 25 lira it provided a great location in old Mardin. The owner of the hotel was also an extremely nice man. One of my friends was struck in the eye with some dust and felt very uncomfortable. After taking us first to his big sister to be examined, it was determined we should go to the hospital just to be safe. The owner not only accompanied us to the hospital, but also even put it under his name so it did not cost us a dime. Fortunately after a thorough cleaning at the hospital her eye recovered the next day! The owner is a very kind man and a great host. I would highly recommend anyone travelling to stay here! The rooms were nice as well. It felt like we were sleeping in an old cave.

We arrived late in the day, leaving us limited time to explore the city. We first checked out the Zinciriye Medrese, which sits near the top of the city, built in 1385. The complex included a mosque and a tomb. The mosque was very beautiful and provided a spectacular view. Like always the mosque was free to visit. Next we travelled to a church just off the main road in the old city. I believe it was the Deyrü’z-Zafaran Monastery, which is one of the oldest monasteries in the world. Also interesting to note, we were told that there are now only 600 Christians left in Mardin, and this is the only remaining operational monastery in all of Southeast Turkey.

Following the monastery we were able to catch the town’s bazaar as it was shutting down. There seemed to be many stores selling hand made soaps that smelt wonderful, and other typical bazaar items such as scarves and spices. Off the main street in the old town there was also many boutique shops selling wine, chocolates, nuts and coffee.

For dinner we ate at a restaurant just a minute down the road from our hostel. It served typical Turkish fair such as kebabs and doner. By coincidence we bumped into an American and British pair we met the prior day in Hasankefy, and enjoyed a nice dinner with them over a few drinks.

We woke up early to assure we did not miss our bus to Urfa, and to our surprise it was snowing outside. I was very taken back to see snow in Southeast Turkey during the tail end of March! The highlight of Mardin is the town itself. Its unique architecture is a sight to see, and the people are all kind and friendly. In the old town you feel like you are in a very unique place. It was worth the day visit to see Mardin. Click here for part 4.

South-East Turkey: Diyarbakir | Hasankeyf | Mardin | Urfa